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So much has happened in the past seven days of American politics that it’s almost a surprise to find so little has fundamentally changed. The Democrats are still prepping new outfits ahead of the public hearings they’re holding over the Ukraine “quid-pro-quo” scandal, beginning next week when Bill Taylor, still (miraculously) the acting ambassador to Ukraine, is expected to take to the Hill to turn his 324 page testimony into stuff suitable for prime time viewing. Republicans, meanwhile, seem increasingly convinced by the supernatural properties of their president, who this week hired Paula White, a Florida televangelist to work miracles in the White House.
To British eyes, it all looked rather odd seeing the President of the most technologically advanced nation on the planet standing with his eyes closed, surrounded by people in prayer touching him in order to channel the divinity that apparently flows through him. (We’re saving that for week three of our general election) At times, it’s hard not to think of Greg Stillson, played by Martin Sheen in David Cronenberg’s chilling adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dead Zone, who cries “Hallelujah, the missiles are flying!“ White has claimed that “to say no to President Trump would be saying no to God”. Well, if so, the Celestial Being certainly works in mysterious ways if manifest in the President who this week described former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke as a “poor bastard”.
Quite how evangelicals rationalise the increasingly profane side of their President remains another of those contradictions for which there never be a satisfactory answer. The same is true of Rand Paul’s entry into Team Trump, which begins to resemble one of those zombie movies in which the least likely character turns bad. Perhaps he was bitten by Senator Lindsey Graham, who you might remember succumbed to a rabid raccoon on a golf course in Act II. Paul joined Trump at a rally in Kentucky to demand that the media release the name of the whistleblower. Yes, that’s the same Senator Rand Paul who has been a notable champion for tighter privacy laws, tweeting last year that “No American should have their right to privacy taken away!” No American, then, expect a whistleblower whose privacy is now threatened by a glaring loophole in the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act…
Another mystery is why it took Beto O’Rourke so long to withdraw from the Democratic race. A few more should adopt his trademark move, roll up their sleeves and write out their “it’s been an exciting few months” letter. While they’re about it, somebody should also pen a handy guide that might explain the puzzling popularity of Andrew Yang, who continues to gain more traction in the media than he does in state polls, which have been tightening among the four front runners.
Project it all forward and you’d say that a recent uptick in Pete Buttigieg’s popularity gives him momentum and Biden’s slide proves that he is finished. However, it’s not even December, the numbers are well within margins of error, whilst most people simply haven’t made up their minds. Despite his critics who suggest he’s been harmed by Trump’s attacks, Biden is enjoying strong numbers nationally, which appear unaffected by the relative underspend of his campaign. He also leads in face-offs against the incumbent, with Trump sometimes trailing by double figures. Whilst it’s certainly telling that his campaign this week accepted the help of Super PACs (an admission that he might need financial help), looked at pragmatically it’s a sensible use of the tools available. In the current climate, nobody will reach the White House without adopting similar tactics.